The Final Word Less One - on any subject anywhere any time that the author finds interesting -

Monday, December 26, 2011

Beginning Here

Despite the yahoos on TV and elsewhere, Christmas Day is not the most important date on the Christian calendar...that would be Easter. For the devout Christian, Christ's death and resurrection make the whole point of Christ's existence.

Buddha was born a prince, but if he'd stayed in the palace the world would have been a poorer place.

It's not the beginnings that are most worthy of celebration but the completion. There's nothing unhealthy or morbid about that statement. It's great to find that wonderful first sentence that hooks the reader into the story...but until the last sentence is written the story is not complete and will be a disappointment to the reader.

Human beings are somewhat unpromising at the start: needing to be fed, and cleaned and carried around like luggage. Fortunately for the species, human babies are cute and are entertaining. But years of parental investment are required to make children into adults with something to contribute to society. I'm grateful that my Christian parents not only provided the material wherewithal to allow me to grow physically but blessed me with their own spiritual foundation. They fed not just my growing body but my inquiring mind.

They allowed me to read the Bible straight through, to question what I found there and to ask those large questions that have no answers: is there a God? If so, why does He allow suffering and evil in this world that He supposedly created?

They shared their own answers to these questions and also indicated that at some point, one must make up one's own mind and get on with life and the business of living. And they put up with my reasoned decision to become an agnostic. As an adult, I was more prone to going to religious services with friends...mostly to understand where they were coming from spiritually.

A friend and a co-worker from Eastern Kentucky introduced me to Buddhism.  I took all the courses on meditation and philosophy offered by the small ashram on the fringe of the University of Kentucky campus. The philosophy appealed to me, but the discipline of sitting meditation was difficult. When one of the lay instructors who lived at the ashram told me that the purpose of meditation was boredom, I balked at that stupid idea as a waste of time and went off.  I had things I wanted to do; experiences I wanted to savor...there was more to life than sitting still.

Years later, I was to realize this guy had it wrong. Life and age and illness will impose limits on our endeavors; death is the ultimate stillness. But if we sit still, open, listening, the universe or God or Enlightenment might have a chance to catch up to us. I have been more alive since I have learned stillness; my mind can take me further than any plane ever will.

The Old Testament of the Bible is the history and religion and cultural background of a people who lived in a particular part of the world long ago. The New Testament is about a man of that people who did and said unusual things for his time. He transcended the vindictive tribal law of revenge and conflict. In his parables and philosophy and practice of going off into the desert to meditate, it's pretty obvious that the man we know as Christ had encountered the philosophy and teachings of a man who lived four hundred years earlier. To put it bluntly: Christ was a Buddhist. He never claims to be the son of God; he refers to himself as the Son of Man.

And just as every notable teacher of Buddhism has added something to the tradition, Christ extended the meaning of compassion, charity and love to the highest degree.

So on the day after Christmas, we begin with the legacy of these two spiritual geniuses. The world is still do we complete this story?

This is the seventh blog of Christmas.

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